“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us.” – 1 John 3:16 (NASB)
If we want to know what love is, we look to a person, not an idea. We direct our attention and affection to Jesus who, as Paul says in Romans 5, demonstrates love by dying for us. But the demonstration begins long before Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It starts with Jesus’ sacrifice of self and home. He gives up everything to come to earth. He sets aside his power and takes a form that tires, hungers, and mourns. Jesus wraps himself in our oh-so-weak flesh and blood.
He shows love, too, in his conversations with people. He always relates to them as individuals. For example, how he treats Nicodemus differs from how he speaks with Peter and the disciples. And, while Jesus deals harshly with the Sadducees and Pharisees, love reigns there, too—love does not let sin go unchecked. It confronts the wrong so that the person can repent and be restored to a right relationship with God.
Jesus embodies love, and if we want to know what real love is, we must look to him. He doesn’t merely speak of love; he acts it out in the breaking of bread, the washing of feet, the dying upon a cross. He exemplifies the words John spurs us toward, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).